London – It is hard putting a positive spin on a trip to Manchester City's fortress, especially after a midweek mugging in Naples, but Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger did his best on Friday.
The heat is rising on the Premier League leaders who face City and Chelsea in successive league matches – two fixtures that will test their mettle as the season careers towards the hectic Christmas and New Year schedule.
City have won seven out of seven at home in the Premier League, scoring 29 goals and conceding two, and will be oozing confidence after Tuesday's 3-2 victory at European champions Bayern Munich.
Arsenal suffered a major jolt on Wednesday when a 2-0 defeat by Napoli cost them top spot in their Champions League group and confirmed the prospect of a horror tie in the last 16.
Wenger's thoughts are focused firmly on what he thinks is a perfect chance for his side to build a nine-point lead over the side many view as Premier League title favourites.
“Let's not forget that if you are in City's position and they lose, then they're nine points behind, so they have more negative pressure than we have,” Wenger told a news conference on Friday.
“We have a positive pressure that we can make a big difference with them, so let's look at it like that.”
Arsenal have had 24 hours less to recover from their exertions in Italy but Wenger says, while not ideal, the early kickoff on Saturday can work in his side's favour.
Second-placed Liverpool play at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday and Chelsea, who like Liverpool are five points behind the Gunners, face Crystal Palace later on Saturday.
“I think we have an opportunity to make a difference on Saturday, we play first and have an opportunity to go from five to eight and that's fantastic,” he said.
“To be completely honest, if you had given me the opportunity to do it I would not have done it like that, but I do not complain. That is not an excuse for us at all, we have the fixtures we have.
“It is another opportunity to show we have the mental strength to deal with it.”
City have been devastating at The Etihad Stadium, putting six goals past Tottenham last month, but Wenger says his side will travel north looking to attack.
“We will go into the game on full cylinders,” said Wenger, whose side's only away league defeat this season was at Manchester United.
“I believe first of all that you need a strong defensive performance and maybe the best way to do that is to attack and keep the ball and not let them find their flow.”
Wenger, who is waiting for a fitness report on right back Bacary Sagna, said Theo Walcott could come into the reckoning at City after coming on as a substitute in the 1-1 home draw with Everton last weekend having recovered from an abdominal injury.
“Honestly, I haven't made that decision but it took him a while to get back to real sharpness,” Wenger said.
“Since this week he looked to me that he has found back his normal level. He is coming back from surgery and it took him a while to get back to his full power.” – Reuters